Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Avista, BNSF join list of donors seeking refunds from Shea campaign

Avista Corp. and the BNSF Railway Co. on Friday joined the list of organizations requesting refunds from state Rep. Matt Shea’s re-election campaign.

Both companies this year donated $2,000 to Shea’s campaign, the maximum allowed under state law. They want that money back now that the Spokane Valley Republican is under fire for distributing a document titled “Biblical Basis for War,” which spells out how a “Holy Army” should punish those who flout “biblical law.”

“The views expressed by Rep. Shea are in direct violation of BNSF’s values and our commitment to a culture of diversity and inclusion,” BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace said in an email. “Our contribution to his re-election campaign was made prior to recent news accounts and without the benefit of the current reporting. In light of this new information, we will ask Rep. Shea to return our campaign contribution.”

Avista President Dennis Vermillion said in a statement: “Avista does not formally endorse candidates for public office, nor should our contributions imply support for all of a candidate’s views on issues. But, we expect recipients of our contributions to honor values like ours.

“Rep. Matt Shea’s personal actions and beliefs are ones which we cannot – and do not – condone, and we cannot be associated with them,” Vermillion said. “We join others in asking Rep. Shea to return the contributions we’ve made to him this election cycle.”

It’s worth noting that Shea’s history of controversial statements and affiliations predates any news stories from recent weeks. In 2014 and 2016, for example, he joined armed protesters occupying federal lands in Nevada and Oregon. On social media, he routinely espouses far-right conspiracy theories, saying “Marxists” and “Islamists” have established “counter states” to take down the U.S. government. He recently called journalists “dirty, godless, hateful people.”

The Northwest Credit Union Association, AT&T and the Washington Association of Realtors previously announced they would seek refunds from Shea, though the campaign has no legal obligation to return money. One other major Shea donor, the Washington Hospitality Association, has denounced the lawmaker’s rhetoric.

Shea did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday, in keeping with his usual practice of ignoring media requests. But he responded to the recent outcry in a Facebook post and in one of his podcast episodes.

“I have consistently and unequivocally condemned racism, anti-Semitism and white nationalism and do so again here and now. Not only are these ideas antithetical to my political beliefs, they are in deep opposition to my faith in Jesus Christ and His love,” Shea wrote on Friday, although in a recent Facebook video he quoted Vox Day, a white nationalist and popular figure in the so-called “alt-right.”

Shea continued: “The attempt to suggest that notes on a series of Biblical sermons many years ago are a ‘manifesto’ calling for mass murder is a ridiculous smear designed (both in timing and tone) as a desperate effort to derail my service to this community and this country.”

About 40 percent of ballots in Shea’s district had been returned as of Thursday. He faces Democrat Ted Cummings in the Nov. 6 general election.

On Saturday, Shea is scheduled to speak at a daylong “Prophetic Conference” at the DoubleTree hotel in downtown Spokane. The conference was organized by Jonathan Hansen, a former Spokane County sheriff’s deputy who now lives in Western Washington and claims to be a prophet of God.

On his website, Hansen claims, among other things, that he predicted 9/11, the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s and the outcome of an election in Kenya. He also asserts that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for “the wickedness taking place” in New Orleans.

According to a flyer for Saturday’s conference, talking points will include “Prophecies for America (The Science of Judgment),” “Islam – Mohammad / President Thomas Jefferson” and “The Planned Overthrow / Revolution taking place in the United States today!!” Tickets started at $35.

The other man scheduled to speak at the conference, Stephen Pidgeon, is an Everett attorney who once represented the anti-gay marriage group Protect Marriage Washington. He’s also promoted the false “birther” theory that former President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen and claimed that Obama sought to establish an Islamic caliphate in the United States.

A DoubleTree employee said the conference organizers had reserved two rooms with a combined capacity of 200 people.

In a phone call Friday, Pidgeon said he didn’t know how many people had registered for the event. In any case, he said, no more tickets would be sold and no journalists would be allowed to attend.

“We’re not canceling the conference, but we’re closing it because there have been an inordinate number of death threats” targeting Shea, Pidgeon said. “Hopefully it will be a safe event.”

A similarly named event, the “Endtime Prophecy Conference,” is scheduled for Nov. 17 at the Davenport Hotel.